Online slots are enormously popular with thousands of gamers across the globe. The affordability and accessibility of online slots has been a massive attraction to players. This is coupled with games that lend themselves to enhanced user interactivity and have plenty of added extras such as bonus rounds and interactive features. A growing percentage of the global population now walks around with a powerful smart device that would put desktop computers of yesteryear to shame. Combine this with fifth generation cellular technology and unlimited data plans, and you set the scene perfectly for the era of the app to take over. Slot machine games are an uncanny fit in this modern world—games which are easy to learn, require only short session times and are a welcome distraction from the humdrum of the commute, for example. As worldwide gambling legislation moves towards a softer approach—many governments seeing the tax potential of the market—it’s likely we’re only experiencing this trend’s infancy.
The passing of PASPA Act 1992 led to the boom of legal online casinos. Online betting is one of the most exciting developments in the American gambling market of recent years. The recent repeal of the PASPA act of 1992 set in motion an overhaul of sports betting laws on a state-by-state basis, moving the decision away from the federal level. And the reinterpretation of the Federal Wire Act to not include lotteries and casino bets has led to six states operating legal online casinos to date. Those states are Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia with several more mainly on the east coast poised to join the medley. Progress is slow, however, and while there are approximately 330 million people in the USA, a huge potential market, the majority of them live in states where homegrown online casinos are still illegal. As a result many Americans will make use of overseas gambling sites that are set up to accept their custom. So, while income from slots, especially offline, is not to be sniffed at, there’s still a huge untapped source of revenue that is currently being spent abroad.
The land of the rising sun, as it does with many things, has a unique perspective on the world of slots. In Japan, the game of pachinko is king, with an estimated one in ten people regularly playing and a market value of approximately $200 billion a year. Until recently, that is: Pachinko slots are the latest gaming craze to hit Japan, offering the familiarity of pachinko to players while retaining many of the features that make slot machine games so popular around the world. The best way to describe pachinko is part arcade game, part gambling and part slot machine. The pastime became popular after World War II as the country had a surplus of ball bearings and an entertainment sector eager to be filled. Players redeem large quantities of balls and load them into a pachinko machine where they are then fired around a board with the object to get them to land in the jackpot cup. Gambling laws in Japan are particularly tight but pachinko parlors have found a way to circumnavigate this. Winnings from the game are printed off on a ticket which can then be exchanged for money in a separate building, a legal loophole that is not likely to be addressed any time soon in such a lucrative market. You will often hear one of Japan’s many pachinko parlors before you see them, as the incessant sound of whirring machines and rattling ball bearings rings out. The parlors also feature traditional slot machines, known as pachislots; however, these are not the main attraction.
Fruit machines are one of the most popular games in the UK. They have a well-established place in British pub and amusements culture, and first found their place at arcades along the promenades of seaside resorts. Unlike many other countries that are opening to the idea of slot machines and low-strategy gambling, the UK has recently begun to legislate more rigorously against them. Harder to obtain licenses are now required to have them on your premises so you’re less likely to see them flashing away in the corner of a bar. But while the physical counterparts, away from casino floors, are on their way to fading into obscurity, the online market is alive and kicking. More Britons than ever before are trying their hand at online casinos, with slots being one of the biggest draws.
The other world
The overall landscape of offline casino markets across the world varies dramatically. Per capita, smaller countries with a relatively high number of casinos and resorts register the most physical slot machines per capita; mainly Caribbean nations like Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and the US Virgin Islands but Australia is placed firmly in the mix. The most thriving offline market, however, is clearly Japan’s pachinko obsession since it is so firmly ingrained in the culture. Japan’s approach has certainly influenced other markets worldwide, encouraging providers to develop new games that perhaps don’t fit so neatly into the fruit machine definition. At the very least, you’re now likely to find slot machines in a plethora of different themes and styles, designed to entice new players to the hobby.